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A watchful eye on environmental effects

The effects to be expected on the environment were listed in the Construction and Zoning Environmental Impact Assessments. Both reports assume the worst case scenarios. Moreover, wide margins are used. But did the expected effects actually occurred during for example sand extraction and land reclamation? Did the expectations with regard to the environmental values for the dune compensation and seabed protection area came true? How did the air quality develop?

Extremely extensive Monitoring and Evaluations Programmes (MEPs) have been set up for Maasvlakte 2's entire lifetime, in accordance with the agreements laid down in the Rotterdam Mainport Development Project Key Physical Planning Decision (PMR PKB 2006). Due to the Bird and Habitat Directive, the European Commission also wants to be informed regularly about the outcomes of the monitoring and evaluation programmes.

Monitoring and Evaluations Programmes

All Monitoring and Evaluations Programmes (MEPs) have a dual goal. The first goal is verification: how do the actual affects compare to the predictions in the Construction and Zoning Environmental Impact Assessments? The second is a learning goal: given that many of these investigations have never been carried out before, it is important to collect information about the observed knowledge gaps. Simply too little is currently known about the consequences of large-scale sand extraction on nature, the seabed and fish stocks. The extensive monitoring programmes are evaluated five-yearly. If there is a reason to, the management plans are adapted. Two examples are given below:

Sand extraction MEP
The large-scale sand extraction in the North Sea is an intervention from which extensive and difficult-to-trace effects are expected. The principal ecological effects of sand extraction are expected to be the disappearance of the seabed life and later the natural recovery of the seabed and its life at the sand extraction sites and in their immediate vicinity. Besides this there are the possible effects of the release of silt on the natural processes in multiple interlinked food chains (the food web) and on the numbers of shellfish and birds.

Seabed samples
In this programme, multiple causative connections are made between sand extraction and the changes measured. Insight into the intervention-effect chains is thus gained. This happens based on reference measurements. Seabed samples have been taken from 300 places in the immediate vicinity of the sand extraction pit and in the area from Vlissingen through to the Waddenzee, to establish their composition. Such measurements are repeated every two years during and after the sand extraction. The sand extraction MEP monitoring is carried out by the Maasvlakte 2 Project Organization.

Land reclamation MEP
The goal of this programme is to investigate whether the actual effects of the Maasvlakte 2 land reclamation are compensated for sufficiently and in good time by the results of the environmental compensation measures (seabed protection areas and dunes). The results may lead to adjustment of the compensation programmes. The effects of the land reclamation are monitored and evaluated under State responsibility.

Effects on Voordelta, North Sea and dunes
The land reclamation MEP features a large number of sub-studies which are focused on the Voordelta, North Sea and dune ecosystems. The following themes will be investigated in the coming years: morphology of the seabed, forms of life on the seabed (benthos), coastal and sea birds, usage functions in sea area (cables, pipelines, fishery), and silt transport and physical and ecological parameters in the dune areas.